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The music program seeks to play an equal part with the rest of the educational process in the development of the students so that they will grow into mature, Christian adults. It is not a vocationally oriented program, although many of our students have gone on to become professional musicians and music educators. Our primary position is not that of a "feeder" program for the secondary schools. Rather, we try to impart to as many children as possible the unique experience which can be attained only through an instrumental program; to teach the techniques of performance and the fundamentals of music and music making. The program strives to serve the needs of the schools, the parents, and the students.
This program is a diocesan program. We are as concerned with the schools whose music programs are not successful as with those which are. Schools whose band enrollments have dropped to as low as 8 to 10 students were not abandoned because they were not carrying their own weight or because they were difficult to schedule. The program operates the same way in each school and is committed to making instrumental music available to every student in the Archdiocese.
The history of the Archdiocesan Music Program is best illuminated by the following description given by Bishop (Msgr.) Thomas W. Lyons in 1972:
"When I began to work in the schools office 18 years ago, we had a small program only a few years old which was under the direction of Dr. Richard Werder, then on the music staff at The Catholic University of America. Dr. Werder set up the program in the schools, arranged for demonstrations of instruments and, when a school chose to participate, assigned instructors. At first, most of the programs were after school and most of the instructors were Army, Navy, Marine, or Air Force musicians who did the teaching part time. The arrangement was an effort to offer instrumental music to those who wanted it. Since we had no way to fund it, it was set up on a tuition basis. Teachers were paid by our office from the tuitions collected.
"As time progressed our program grew. However, use of part-time instructors whose first allegiance must be to their major employment was not totally satisfactory. Moreover, Dr. Werder had to give up direction of the program. At first this was assigned to a man who had been one of the instructors. Finally some ten years ago, Mr. Weck proposed to set up the program in a way that would remove the burden of recruiting personel, payrolling, etc. The program is still an Archdiocesan one. It has expanded to more than 50 elementary schools with over 2000 participants.
"The growth in the program made possible the employment of full-time teachers. This has added greatly to stability and quality. The combination of full-time personnel and transportation problems for after-school activities led many years ago to inclusion of the program in the regular school schedule. Teachers cooperated by arranging schedules in a fashion that rotated the time and subject during which the student would be out of regular class. This appears to have worked out rather well. While most students pay the full tuition for the program, Mr. Weck has tried to provide some scholarship help. This is necessarily limited by the income of the program and the desire to keep the cost within the reach of most families.
"We have been pleased that in this way we are able to offer a program that otherwise would be beyond the financial capacity of the schools. At the same time it is conducted as an Archdiocesan program yet without great burden to our office. Some of the schools have been remarkably successful particularly where the principal fostered the program and allowed parents to assist with some of the management details."
In 1969, the curriculum committee of the Archdiocesan School Board conducted an extensive investigation of the program. Following its consideration of the matter the committee presented to the full Board a recommendation that the Board issue a strong endorsement of the program to principals, parish councils, and home and school associations.
In 1974 a committee of principals established by the executive board of ESPA conducted a thorough study of the program. As a result of this study, the executive board of ESPA recommended that the Archdiocese formalize the heretofore oral understanding between Bishop Lyons and Mr. Weck. This was accomplished when a contract was executed in 1977.
In 1975, the St. Matthias band was named the best elementary band in the country by the National Catholic Music Educators Association. In 1977, the program was invited by the Music Educators National Conference to be one of 39 elementary, high school, and college bands, orchestras, and choruses to perform in the President's Park as part of the "Showcase of American Music Education." In 1978, in a tape evaluation by the National Catholic Bandmasters' Association, the only two bands to earn a number one rating and one of the two bands to earn a number two rating (rated from one to ten) were from the Archdiocesan Music Program. In 1983, the St. Ignatius band was named the outstanding parochial school band in the United States by NCBA.
The above accomplishments, although impressive, do not represent the most important success of the program. Of much greater importance is the fact that the program has been able to establish viable programs in every part of the Archdiocese. This program works in inner city schools, suburban schools, and rural schools. No other program of this kind in any other diocese in the U.S. accomplishes this.